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Antarctic Affair

On a December day on Antarctica's Cockburn Island, Dutch photographer Jan Vermeer found a pair of blue-eyed shags engaging in the rituals of courtship

  • Jan Vermeer
  • Apr 01, 2008

ON A DECEMBER spring day on Antarctica's Cockburn Island, Dutch photographer Jan Vermeer found this pair of blue-eyed shags engaging in the rituals of courtship. The blue-eyed, or imperial, shag is the only cormorant species found in Antarctica. It is also the only Antarctic bird that hatches featherless young. Courtship begins in late August, and pairs produce up to three eggs. The babies fledge from January to March. Blue-eyed shags--the color is in a skin patch around the eye rather than in the eye itself--were a welcome sight to early Antarctic sailors, who knew the appearance of these coastal birds meant land was near.

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